UVALDE, Texas – Funeral directors, landowners, florists and others from around Texas arrived this week to help, as the first funerals begin Tuesday for the 19 students and two teachers killed last week at Robb Elementary School.
Jimmy Lucas, president of the Texas Funeral Directors Association, told NBC News that he brought a hearse and volunteered to work as a driver or help in any way. Former Uvalde resident Leslie Garza, a florist based in San Antonio, told NPR she drove down to volunteer with a group that put together flower arrangements.
Nineteen of those killed will be laid to rest in coffins adapted by Trey Ganem and his son, who is based in Edna, Texas, and worked over the three-day weekend to finish, CNN reported.
The first two funerals were scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and evening, following Monday’s visit to the city’s two funeral homes, where Amerie Jo Garza, 10, was remembered as an “outgoing and funny” child who “wanted to help everyone else,” and Maite Rodríguez, 10, was described as “smart, bright, beautiful, happy” and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist.
The services, which are expected to continue for the next two weeks, are coming while Uvalde is struggling with the law enforcement’s admittedly flawed response to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Beyond NRA: Weapons rights groups spend millions on influencing gun laws
The National Rifle Association is accustomed to attracting national attention during calls for gun safety legislation following mass shootings. But a handful of other gun rights groups also have significant influence in the country’s capital, allocating millions each year to lobbyists to help persuade lawmakers and policy makers to take up their party on issues they care about.
Gun-rights advocacy organizations spent a record $ 15.8 million on lobbying last year, according to an analysis by Open Secrets, a non-partisan nonprofit that tracks lobbying and campaign contributions. Since 1998, the industry has spent nearly $ 200 million on federal lobbying.
The biggest user last year was not the NRA, which held its annual convention over the weekend. This space went to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which paid lobbyists $ 5 million in 2021. Read more here.
– Donovan Slack and Chelsey Cox, USA TODAY
The boss who led the shooting action will not be sworn into city council
Unpublished school district police chief Pete Arredondo, who led law enforcement response to the mass shooting, was due to be sworn in as a newly elected city councilor on Tuesday, but Mayor Don McLaughlin said Monday it would not happen.
“Our focus on Tuesday is on our families who lost loved ones,” McLaughlin said in a statement issued Monday to the United States TODAY. “We’re starting to bury our children tomorrow, the innocent victims of last week’s murder at Robb Elementary School.”
It was not immediately clear whether Arredondo would be sworn in at a later date or whether it would be made private. He was one of three council members to be sworn in on Tuesday.
“Pete Arredondo was duly elected to the city council,” McLaughlin said. “There is nothing in the City Charter, the Electoral Code, or the Texas Constitution that prohibits him from taking office. As far as we know, we are not currently aware of any investigation into Mr. Arredondo.”
At an astonishing press conference Friday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said not confronting the gunman after two officers received grazing wounds after an initial meeting was “the wrong decision.”
“It’s clear there were kids in the room. It’s clear they were in danger,” McCraw said.
Incredible loss:A look at the 19 children and two teachers who were killed
‘Pain is to be felt’ in Uvalde
At Monday’s visit to Amerie, mournful shades of purple, her favorite color, wore, at the request of her stepfather, Angel Garza. During Maite’s visit, the family wore green tie-dye shirts with an illustration showing the 10-year-old with angel wings.
A dozen funerals are planned this week for those killed in the shooting, 11 for students and one for teacher Irma Garcia. In all, the gunman killed 21 people.
During Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of Uvalde residents and visitors from surrounding communities cycled through Uvalde Town Square in the majority of the 16,000-strong Latino community about 75 miles west of San Antonio. Churches from Uvalde and neighboring towns arranged prayer services on the square.
Visitors wore red-brown and blue shirts adorned with Uvalde Strong or Uvalde High School Coyotes mascot and wiped tears away as they embraced each other and gave their respect.
Dan Hinojosa, pitmaster and owner of the Harris County General Store Barbecue Company, said Monday that he drove down early to set up a food tent near one of the cemeteries and town square.
“My heart goes out to the community and we’re just out here trying to spread love,” Hinojosa said.
Other members of the local community put together car washes and record sales to help raise money for families. On the roads around the primary school, the residents handed out cold water and teddy bears to visitors. Support from across the country resulted in millions of dollars raised on GoFundMe.
“The pain is palpable,” President Joe Biden said Monday after a trip to Uvalde, where he met with the families of the victims.
THE SURVIVED SHOTS:Now their own children in classrooms are in the midst of a rising epidemic
ULVADE:School photographers’ images bring children and tragedies into full focus
Senators meet to discuss possible gun security rules
Biden said he plans to continue pushing for gun safety rules as a two-part group of about 10 senators have met to discuss possible legislation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Also said last week that he wanted Republican lawmakers to work with Democrats on legislation “directly related” to the Uvalde shooting.
The three topics they discussed included background checks for weapons purchased online or at gun shows, red flag laws designed to keep guns away from those who could injure themselves or others, and programs to strengthen the safety of schools and other buildings.
Armed man in Uvalde shooting legally bought two rifles after his 18th birthday, police say. He was armed with more than 1,000 cartridges of ammunition, and more than 140 used cartridges were found inside the school, according to law enforcement.
Cast: Rafael Carranza and Donovan Slack, USA TODAY; Associated Press